Fallen crest public, p.33
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       Fallen Crest Public, p.33

         Part #3 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan
 

  because she was crying to cry. She was crying in fear, the kind that comes from deep inside a person.

  “No.” Ben pulled me back, firmer this time. He had stopped shaking so much. “You can’t go back there.”

  “Okay, but why?”

  His mouth closed and his lips pressed tight.

  “Ben, you have to tell me or I’m going to kick you in the balls so I can go and see who that is.”

  He winced and tried to cover himself with one hand. I snorted. That wasn’t going to help.

  “Ben,” I started again.

  The girl cried out again, but it was hushed by someone else. A male someone. The foreboding sense kicked into full gear. Disgust was next. I had to go. Whether this clerk was going to let me go or not, I was going. “I mean it. Let go or you’re never going to have children.”

  “You can’t.”

  “Why?”

  “You just,” he faltered. “You can’t.”

  Slap!

  I started around the corner, dragging Ben with me. My blood was still pumping from adrenalin. I hadn’t gone numb like I usually did when I run. I was going to help whoever was back there. I’d been hurt. Someone came to help me. I was going to do the same.

  “You can’t,” Ben grunted as he held me back. He was scrawny, but he was stronger than me. I was hauled back and then shoved towards the front of the gas station. “Budd Broudou is back there.”

  I stopped. Ice cold water filled my veins, and I couldn’t move.

  That was Budd.

  So that was Kate. This was it, this was what he would’ve done to me if Mason hadn’t manipulated everything.

  “Nnoo … AH! Wha—”

  “Shut up,” he hissed at her.

  I flinched. I could imagine him slapping his hand over her mouth. Then he continued doing whatever he was doing.

  “Oh my god.”

  “See.” Ben yanked me the rest of the way. “You can’t go back there. He’ll hurt you. She told him that you were Mason’s girlfriend and not her, but he didn’t believe her. You can’t go back there. He might not care and hurt both of you.”

  “Call the cops.”

  He stopped, and I ran into him. Shaking his head, he started trembling again. “Yeah, right.”

  “You have to.”

  “No.”

  “Ben.”

  “NO. No.”

  “He is hurting her.” It didn’t matter. None of it mattered. If she hurt me, if she hadn’t. What he was doing—I didn’t even want to know, though I had a good idea—was wrong. Revulsion swept through me, but I shoved it down.

  I’d been hurting. Someone helped me. That kept running through my head. I had to help her, no matter who she was.

  “We can’t call the cops.”

  “We have to. Do you have cameras? Anything? Her uncle is a cop.”

  “He is?”

  I nodded.

  “Okay.” He still looked ready to piss his pants. “We have two cameras, no—three. We have three cameras.”

  He stopped. Nothing.

  I asked, “Where are they?”

  “Oh. One is pointing towards the front. One is where they are and the other is inside.”

  My heart sank. “So none on him?”

  He shook his head and pushed up his glasses. They began sliding down right away, but he didn’t notice. His eyes were glued to me and his hand went back to his hip, his very tiny, scrawny hip. I sighed. What the hell was I doing?

  “His truck is over there.”

  “What?”

  He pointed down the road where his truck was hidden in a copse of trees. It was far enough away from the gas station and surrounded by healthy trees. If … a plan began to form, but as I went over it in my head, I couldn’t. There was no way.

  “HELP—”

  He slapped her again. It was followed by a thud.

  I closed my eyes. He hurt her again.

  That sealed it. Looking at Ben, there was uncertainty, but panic mixed with trust. He was trusting me, but I had no idea what I was doing. I did, but I held no promise it was going to work. It had to. I pushed all the fear down, and I remembered everything that had made me angry.

  Analise.

  David leaving me.

  Jeff cheating on me.

  Jessica and Lydia stabbing me in the back.

  Adam lying about me.

  Becky believing him.

  Kate and her friends. She wanted Mason back. All of them hurting me.

  And now Helen. I knew she didn’t want me to be with Mason. Everyone knew it. It was another obstacle in our relationship. I felt it coming, so did Mason, but neither of us knew how to stop it before it began.

  By the time I remembered everything, all that old anger had mixed with the adrenalin from my run. I was heated. I was sick and tired of being hurt, being shoved down, being pushed around, being punched, stabbed, and being replaced.

  “Ben.” My voice was firm.

  He settled down and nodded.

  “Turn your cameras off in the front. There can’t be any evidence of me.”

  “There won’t, but,” he hesitated, “what are you going to do?”

  “I’m going to distract him.”

  “Okay.” Another beat of hesitation. “What do you want me to do?”

  “Wait until I light it before you call the fire station.”

  “Okay.” He rushed back inside.

  I waited a second.

  He rushed back out. “Light what?”

  I took a deep breath. “I need some gasoline.”

  His eyes popped out, but he went inside and brought back two full red containers and handed them over without a word. This was the time when I was making the decision to help someone else. This could cost me my life. I had no idea, but he was hurting another girl, and I couldn’t let that happen. There was no way I could walk away from it without losing a piece of my soul, so I took the two containers of gasoline Ben gave me, and I carried them to Budd’s truck. It was hidden, and I had no doubt that he was going to use the running trail to slip past the cameras and drive away.

  That pissed me off even more. I had no idea why, but he wanted to get away with it, using my trails. Everyone got away with screwing people over.

  Not this time.

  I didn’t touch the truck, but I doused the entire thing with gasoline. When I was done, I heard Kate cry out again. He was still doing whatever it was he was doing. I closed my eyes and pulled my sleeves over my hands. I wiped down the containers. Ben told me to do that. He said they could maybe get my finger prints off of them. I had no idea what he was going to say when the police would come. He said he would turn the cameras off. He was an accomplice, but he told me not to worry about it. He had my back. Apparently, he had my back the entire time. Budd kept coming back to the gas station and questioned Ben about Mason’s girlfriend. He never told him, not once. I could only imagine what Budd must’ve put him through.

  I’d never come to Quickie’s again without being thankful.

  “Oh … God …” Kate moaned, but not the good kind. It was the kind that reached inside a person’s darkest parts and took root.

  I moved far enough away before I flipped the lighter and bent down. Grabbing some old branches, I put the flame to them and waited. My heart was pounding in my chest and everything went to slow motion then.

  I was going to do this.

  I kept hearing her cries.

  “You should’ve quit school today. I gave you your last out.”

  My thumb slipped off the lighter, but I couldn’t move. I remained crouched down, the lighter to the tree branch and my hand never trembled.

  This isn’t payback. This is your punishment.

  She wanted to destroy me, but she had only hurt me. I fought back. When I was down, I got back up. She hadn’t destroyed me.

  Shut up and get her.

  I dropped the lighter. My hand jerked as I felt their first hit, their first punch, their first kick, and when I dropped to
the ground. I felt them again. They were closing in on me. I’d been so close to escaping.

  You can’t kill her. Let’s go.

  When would she have stopped? She had wanted to do more damage that night. Her friends stopped her and he was hurting her now, but it didn’t matter. He was killing her on the inside. I heard her cries and I knew that agony. It had been me, but at her hands.

  I reached for the lighter again. This time there was no wavering and I waited until the branch was burning before I tossed it towards the truck. Then I ran.

  When he saw the fire, Ben was supposed to call the fire station and the cops. I wasn’t going to wait and see the fireworks. I needed to leave. As I sprinted across the road and over to the next running trail that would take me back to Malinda’s, I froze for a second.

  Kate saw me. Even from this distance, I could see the pain in her eyes.

  They were right there, pressed against the side of the wall. He had taken her near the dumpster, but I could see them. A passing car wouldn’t be able to, and I knew that was why he chose that spot. Only someone walking or running by would see them.

  He had a hand to her throat and another hand between their bodies. I didn’t know what he was doing, and I didn’t want to know.

  BOOM!

  The explosion had enough force to it to push me back, but I didn’t look away.

  Budd let her go, and he ran around the side of the gas station. “What the hell?!”

  Kate pushed herself up, but she didn’t look away from me. Her hair was matted, and she had scrapes over her face. It was red from where he had slapped her. Her throat was already bruising, but she mouthed, “Thank you.”

  She knew.

  I jerked my head in a nod. She had hurt me and I had saved her. The irony was not lost on me, but I didn’t wait to see what else happened next. I took off. As I pushed up another hill, just nearing the trail to Malinda’s, I heard sirens in the distance. I couldn’t help myself so I stopped and looked down. There was a tiny opening between some trees so I could see Quickie’s. The flames had lifted high in the air, but that wasn’t what I cared about. Budd was pacing back and forth.

  I laughed to myself.

  He tried to get inside the gas station, but he couldn’t. The doors were locked. Ben and Kate stood inside and watched him. He kept trying, but when he heard the sirens, he started running.

  He wouldn’t get far enough. I heard him yell, “FUCK!”

  I turned and started walking now. The need to run had left me. I wanted to savor this. He’d gone after Mason. He’d gone after Logan, put Nate in the hospital, and terrorized way too many others. Budd Broudou was going to jail. I knew it, and he knew it. It was a day that I would enjoy for a long time. Maybe Mason was right. Maybe taking control into your own hands was the best way to serve justice?

  I remembered Kate’s whimpers and my conscience was clear. I did more for her than she had done for me. It was good enough for me.

  Three Months Later …

  Budd had been arrested for trying to rape Kate. Her uncle was first on scene, and they arrested him right away. He hadn’t gotten far down the road, and there was enough evidence to send him to prison. As for Kate, she moved in with her uncle. Heather heard through the rumor mill that he hadn’t been happy with her parents for years, and with so many problems happening at the same time, he had her move in with him and his wife. Her mom and dad never fought the decision so as everyone else was finishing up their spring semester, Kate was working on getting her GED through the alternative school.

  I was just happy that I never saw her again. I was also happy that no one knew who set Budd’s truck on fire. Ben and Kate kept quiet. I was relieved, and I wasn’t going to start questioning her motives. If she talked, I’d set her truck on fire, too. I was done dealing with her.

  “You got a visitor.”

  I glanced up from the register. Heather had a tense smile on her face. She was standing with her back to where the guys were. Mason, Logan, Channing, and Gus were all lined up on barstools in front of Brandon. A baseball game was on the television, and Logan was goading Gus into betting against his favorite team.

  “Who?”

  “Ssh.” She leaned closer and rolled her eyes to the back of her head. “You have a visitor.”

  There was a message in there somewhere, but I couldn’t decipher it. Mason was leaving in a few months, and I was already dreading his graduation in a week. All emotional energy was spent towards that, not figuring out cryptic messages from my friend.

  “Spell the name,” I said instead of guessing. I wasn’t going to go and see. It could be Kate, or worse, one of her friends trying to apologize again. I wasn’t having any of it.

  “Just go,” she hissed before expelling a frustrated sound and grabbing my hand. She pulled me through the side door, and announced as she passed the bar, “Smoke break. No boys allowed.” No one moved, but then we were through the doors before anyone had the chance. Before the screen door could slam shut, she caught it and reached inside for the main door. Both were pulled shut.

  I glanced around the alley, but no one was there.

  Heather dropped down in a chair and pulled out her cigarettes. I started to sit as well, but she waved me away. “No. Go.”

  “Where?”

  “Oh.” She glanced around and frowned. “Where’d he go?” Then her eyes lit up, and she pointed to the back end of Manny’s, right next to her house. “There. I see him.”

  Uh … I was putting my trust in my friend as I started to the back. When I got there, I relaxed. Slightly. “Brett.”

  He was leaning against a tree with his hands stuffed inside his front pockets. As he stood, his goliath-sized body unfolded and grew again in front of me. If he hadn’t asked me out and if he hadn’t protected me from Budd, I would’ve been pissing my pants. All I did was wipe my hands off on my pants and give him a relieved grin.

  He grinned back, but grimaced. “I’m sorry for not doing this earlier.”

  Oh whoa. That wasn’t what I expected to hear. “Do what?”

  “Come to apologize.”

  “Apologize? For what?”

  “For my brother and what he must’ve put you through. For me too.” He glanced down as his shoulders lifted when he took in a deep breath. “I should’ve stopped him a long time ago, but I didn’t. I never had incentive to, and I guess it was easier to let Shannon get in his ear. This all started because my sister told us Mason Kade used her for sex. I know what she did wasn’t right.”

  “Shannon?”

  “She lied all those years ago.”

  Oh, whoa again. “You knew?”

  “Not then, but I found out the truth a few months ago. I never told Budd.” He shrugged, reaching up to scratch his face. As he
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